RIM launches new BlackBerry Bold smartphone
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Research In Motion showed off a new version of its BlackBerry Bold phone with upgraded software on Monday, aiming to regain its stride after last week's profit warning and other recent stumbles.
RIM also said it will manage corporate and government communications sent using Apple's iPhone and iPad, as well as devices running Google's Android software, through its secure BlackBerry Enterprise Server. It's an implicit acknowledgment by RIM that its grip on the sector has weakened.
The company aims to capitalize on the BlackBerry's enhanced security features and its established role controlling employee access to corporate data while out of the office.
For years, businesses and government agencies have given the BlackBerry to millions of workers in need of mobile access to workplace applications. But many now prefer using their own Apple and Android-powered devices.
"Device diversity is a reality," Co-chief Executive Jim Balsillie told analysts at an annual conference in Florida.
RIM said the new touchscreen phone it announced on Monday is its thinnest and its most powerful yet.
When the device becomes available worldwide in the summer it will support the world's two most widely used network technologies, GSM and CDMA.
Analysts said the company would need more than one new product to generate investor excitement and investors shrugged off the announcement, sending RIM shares down 1.3 percent to $48.05 on Monday. It dropped 14 percent on Friday after the profit warning.
"It's not so much any individual product that's going to change investors' perception of the stock. It's going to take an upgrade of the entire product portfolio with the operating system upgrades," Evercore Partners analyst Alkesh Shah.
RIM stunned investors last week with a fresh profit warning, just weeks after it issued a dismal outlook and struggled through poor reviews for its PlayBook tablet.
Sales of its aging phones have lagged, especially in the vital U.S. market and in Latin America, while Apple and Google have powered ahead.
While defending its realm in the professional market, RIM is pushing hard to deepen its inroads in consumer markets. But it has struggled to catch the eye of the most discerning shoppers, though it has made strides in grabbing market share in emerging markets, mostly with cheaper handsets.
RIM's other co-chief, founder Mike Lazaridis, said the company never considered ditching its own software to adopt Android, as Motorola Mobility, HTC Corp and others have done. Some analysts say that would lessen the strain on RIM.
"This battle is going to be fought on software, and we decided not to basically succumb to the lowest common denominator with Android," Lazaridis said on Monday afternoon.
He declined to say whether RIM would bid for thousands of Nortel patents Google is frontrunner to acquire.
The new Bold, the model most geared toward the business market, has a 2.8-inch screen and retains the company's trademark physical qwerty keyboard with a 1.2 GHz processor. It will ship with a near-field communication (NFC) chip, allowing the phone to be used as a mobile wallet, executives said at the annual BlackBerry World conference in Orlando.
Balsillie said some customers are prepared to buy tens of thousands of NFC-enabled BlackBerrys.
The Canadian company also launched a video chat application and Facebook app for the PlayBook and said it would buy device management company Ubitexx.
RIM also launched BlackBerry Balance, a program to allow corporate and personal data to coexist without compromising confidential communication.
(Additional reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Peter Galloway)
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